Beckett Haight : Teaching in Mexico City
Briefly introduce yourself and share the story behind your interest in international education.
A long story short, I had a lot of difficulties as a child and once I turned it around at age 16, it led me to want to be a probation officer or a special education teacher. I ended up going the special education route, given that I spent grades 6-12 receiving special education support and wanted to give back to a population of students similar to myself.
After college, I immediately became a teacher and taught in high-needs schools in California for six years. Since so many of my student’s families were Spanish speakers, and family communication is so vital for a special educator, I quickly began to teach myself Spanish and continued for all six years of my California teaching career.
But at a certain point, I realized that living in a Spanish speaking country for some time would help me become fluent in Spanish. Additionally, I had a wise friend who told me that I should live abroad for at least one year of my life. Thus, as I finished up the second part of my credential and my Masters in Special Education, I started making moves to teach abroad and joined ISS to help with this pursuit.
I ended up landing a job in the Dominican Republic at CMS through the ISS job fair in San Francisco, worked in Kuwait for a spell, went to Ethiopia to link back with a former colleague from the Dominican Republic and gain IB and middle school experience. Now I’m off to Mexico for the unforeseen adventure!
What made you sign up with a service like ISS, and how has your experience been?
Back in 2010 or so, when I first started thinking about going international, I had seen an ISS school directory online and just looked through it to see what the options were. By 2011, when I was really intent on going international, I used that directory to start cold-calling (emailing) schools, but soon realized it would work better to go official and make an ISS profile.
Once I did that, I was able to have references, my philosophy of education, etc. on the ISS site, and also was able to see more about the schools (i.e. what positions were available). It wasn’t long before I connected with some schools who wanted to link up at the ISS job fair in February (2011) that I was planning on attending.
All these years later, and still a ‘member’ of ISS, most recently accepting a job in January (2017), I can say that the experience has been great. I have opened and closed my profile a few times over the years as I got jobs, and have never had a problem starting back up and having my information still in the profile (something I feared the first time; losing all my confidential references!). Also, this may sound like a sell on my part, but honestly the customer service has always been on point and very personal (i.e. direct messages with the same person every time). So much so that I still remember one of the persons’ names who helped me with about 8 questions at one point (Tajuan). To top it off, I have always received answers and what not super quick. My friend showed me his SEARCH associates profile this past fall when I was looking for a job, and he shared the process with me and let me search jobs for myself, but I came away feeling that the ISS process was best for me. I think in some ways it is just more intuitive.
What excites you most about your new role and/or school? How did you know when you found the right fit?
I am moving to the American school in Monterrey, Mexico this summer and one of the most intriguing aspects of this new position is that I am going from a 6-12th grade learning support model to just supporting students in one grade. While I have enjoyed my current role and all that I have learned and been able to provide, it is going to be a lot more manageable to work with students in just one grade.
And in terms of finding the right fit in general, one thing I was looking for in my next school was a high-performing school in a location that had a high ‘quality of living’. This will be my fourth international school and I have gone from the Caribbean to the Middle East to East Africa and at this point I was thinking a little more critically about my choice, as opposed to the past where I would go anywhere the wind took me…. metaphorically speaking.
On a final note, I was also very intrigued by the interview process at this school. The final interview consisted of a questioning protocol that I have never experienced before. It made me think that this perspective supervisor was thinking outside of the box and would be great to work for.
What research did you do before accepting your job?
I spent a fair amount of time on the school’s website looking at things like their strategic objectives, AP scores, and other school profile type things. By looking at these areas, I was able to ascertain that the school was at the level I was looking for in my next position.
Additionally, I spent a fair amount of time on Wikitravel, reading about the region and the city. I also checked out forums on sites like the Lonely Planet to see what people were saying. Trying to get the scoop on what the day to day would be like.
Lastly, one of my go to sources for information is a website called International Schools Review in which teachers and admin rate the school and leave comments about it. For this particular school, I was able to see a few reviews, and all positive; a very good sign!
What advice would you give to educators looking to recruit overseas for the first time?
The first thing I would suggest is to get on a recruiting site like ISS and start putting time into developing a great profile. Craft your philosophy of education, compile your docs, make a video, update your resume and attach, etc.
Another thing I would suggest to first timers is to try to find a good school in an area with a decent quality of life for expats. This is because the culture shock can be tremendous at first, and sometimes have lasting effects. I had a friend go from a hip beach town in California to her first international job in a small town in Turkey. The only people she had to spend time with were her colleagues, and there was a lot of cliques and what not, which ultimately ruined her experience as she was used to having lots of friends, lots of activities to do, etc. If she had been in Istanbul for example, her life would have been a lot more fulfilling during her first two years abroad.
So just make sure you don’t jump into a situation that may not be ideal. Unless you have your reasons (e.g. you like the travel opportunities, you want IB experience, etc.). Also, if you have a family then that can make things a lot easier. In that case, people often focus on their career, focus on their family, and as long as the school is decent, they are happy.
The last thing I would recommend is to start the process early. In the States, we are used to jobs opening up in the Spring, or even the Summer. But in the international field it seems that most schools want to be done with all their recruiting for the next year by February or so. This means that you should be ready for interviews and job fairs by late November and December. Have your profile tight, have your interview prep down, and have your sport coat ready.
Thank you for that amazing advice and best of luck at your new adventure in Mexico!
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